who knew it was so complicated?

The house only has electric heating. There’s no gas in the village and there are no plans to put a pipe in so the majority of the homes use oil for heating and hot water. Our house has night storage heaters and economy 7 heating. That’s not something we’re happy with – partly because we work at home so need to use electricity during the day when it’s expensive on economy 7, but also because storage heaters are huge, ugly beasts and notoriously ineffective and inefficient.

An example. It was quite chilly here this weekend so we tried out the storage heaters for the first time. For those who don’t know, storage heaters “charge up” overnight and release the heat during the day. Ours have a temperature control so that you can adjust how much heat they release and when, more modern ones are linked to a thermostat. So, for instance, you might want a slow trickle all day – put the gauge on 1 or 2 or set your thermostat to 18ºC. Or you keep it turned off until the evening and then put it on 4/21ºC. All theoretically fine. In reality, the heaters are scorching hot first thing in the morning despite being turned off. It’s hot to the point of being uncomfortable in the house and there’s nothing we can do about it. We just have to hope that they still have some heat left for the evening when we want the heat to take the chill off. The whole storage heater concept is just a disaster.

So we plan to replace the storage heaters with something more efficient and sustainable. I don’t want oil. We looked into biomass boilers but they need a lot of space. Most people have a little engine room for them. There are cost implications and supply issues too. The thought of potentially running out of heating is not something I’d ever had to deal with before.

I started looking at more efficient electric systems. I spoke to a very kind man who runs an electric-only heating company. They supply different types of boilers, dry and wet heating systems, everything you might need. After a long chat on the phone and then doing some more research of my own I was almost convinced that we could get electric radiators and a super efficient hot water system. We’re with a green energy supplier, so we’re using 100% renewable energy, which makes it all seem more acceptable.

I found a UK designer and manufacturer of electric radiators that are quite honestly beautiful and I’d love to have one in my house, so much so that I was warming (sorry) to the idea of having electric radiators.

A couple of days later there’s a knock at the door and a local company who install air source heat pumps are leaving cards and brochures around the village. Apple cart: upset. I looked at air-source heat pumps ages ago but there were a few downsides. I’d read that they can only do ‘warm’ and while that’s fine for heating it’s not ideal for water. I’m assured that these days they’ll produce as much hot water as we would need. Then I had concerns about having a big ugly, noisy box on the front of the house. Apparently that’s no longer a thing either. You can put them on the back of the house, they’re fitted with dampeners to limit the noise and you can screen them too. Lastly, and a possible spanner in the works for this house: they only work with wet central heating systems (that means your standard radiators wth copper pipes linking everything together). We want underfloor heating in the extension, so that works out fine, we can include it in the build, but we would have to retrofit pipes into the old part of the house and that’s a tough ask. We can’t lift the floor and put the pipes under the floor boards because the ground floor is built on pretty much solid flint (ikr) but other people have got round this by using special skirting boards which hide the pipes. They’re hollow, basically, and the pipes fit behind them. Given that we will be knocking down a wall and putting in a steel beam, there’s also the option of chasing out the plaster to accommodate the pipes at the same messy, noisy, dusty time. There’d still be some pipework to go upstairs but again, while we’re moving walls around we may be able to get the pipe work through the ceiling and once we’re there we can put them under the floorboards/behind some extra chunky skirting.

The last thing is that while they’re the cheapest energy source to run long term, they’re expensive to buy and install. Right now, though, there are grants available which cover most of the initial outlay, giving you a very economical heat source after those seven years have elapsed.

Today’s takeaway: there’s always a solution, and you don’t necessarily need to throw buckets of money at it, just do your research.